Welcome to The Rundown’s special series on the 1992 East Forsyth Fighting Eagles State Champs. The football team, led by a group of seniors that were three-year starters and Head Coach Joe Bill Ellender, would rattle off 15 straight wins en route to the school’s first and only State Championship. The team would finish ranked #15 nationally by USA Today. In Part 2, we look at the second half of the regular season as East Forsyth begins to gel and perfect their craft with two things in mind….revenge. And a Conference Championship in the Metro 4A.
Week 6 – East Forsyth vs Burlington Williams
East Forsyth is 5-0 at this point heading into a Metro 4A conference game with Burlington Williams. East Forsyth would blow out Williams in Kernersville 61-14 and put the Triad on notice…the Eagles were for real.
Juan Davis, Senior, Running Back/Strong Safety
The Burlington Williams game put a lot of people on notice that we were for real. The 14 points came after the starting defense went out of the game in the 3rd quarter, so in other words we were up 61-0. One thing that sticks out to me is that Marquis “Speedy” Scales hit a Burlington guy so hard on the sideline, he knocked the player out cold. We marched up all up and down the field and the defense was stifling especially considering that Burlington Williams had a great QB (Tony Covington) that would go on to play at Liberty University.
Joe Bill Ellender, Head Coach
I remember that we threw the ball eleven times and completed eleven passes….that is a rarity even for elite teams. A funny story…Head Coach Sam Story of Burlington Williams fell asleep in route to our stadium and their bus arrived at North Forsyth instead. They had to turn around and come back to Kernersville. He told me that story several years later at our Coaches Clinic in Greensboro. WE did not try to score that many points but our execution was very good and their team made mistake after mistake. To bring this in to perspective, Burlington Williams finished second in our conference that year and Greensboro Page was third.
Rod Funderburk, Senior Defensive Ed and Special Teams
In the Burlington Williams game, I remember James Clyburn and myself put a memorable hit on their running back on the first series of the game and we saw fear in his eyes. From then on, he didn’t run very hard and his fellow teammates asked him, “What’s wrong? How come you’re tip toeing through the holes?” I remember telling his lead blocker “You would be tip toeing too if we were hitting yo @$$ instead of him…” I never really thought about what their offense could do, our goal was to keep the ball in our offense’s hands. I had a fumble recovery that helped contribute to that goal.
Talmadge “TK” Alexander, Senior, Noseguard/Defensive Tackle
We were hyped for this game as they had an all-state center that went to App State and Ernest Tinnin who went to ECU. We were determined for them to have the worst game of their career. We started to focus more on the game plan and became more vocal on what we were seeing on the field that night. No it wasn’t hard to focus after this blowout win. We didn’t put pressure on ourselves and played one game at a time. We still were not in the AP Top 10 at that time but had at least one honorable mention to get in.
Week 7 – East Forsyth vs North Forsyth
A tight 14-0 win over a game North Forsyth team put East Forsyth at 7-0 on the season. The defense at this point had really begun to assert itself. But interactions at the annual Dixie Classic Fair set the tone for the game to be played that Friday Night for both teams.
Marquis “Bam”Scales, Senior, Running Back/Defensive Back
North Forsyth is the team that would try to push our buttons. While at the fair, they would tell us that we weren’t going to score that many points on them. So us having pride, we said we are going to beat y’all even worse. When that day came and we received the ball on the opening kickoff and I took it to the house for a touchdown we knew the game had started off right and also we let North know “Here we go”. So throughout the night the need to dominate North Forsyth was so much in our adrenaline that for some reason we just could not produce the points and it was not that they were holding us to it, but the fact that it was more of a need to prove a point instead of us just having fun like previous games.
The North Forsyth Game was one that we were too hyped for. The Dixie Classic Fair was that week and all they talked about was how we would not score 60 on them and we didn’t take that too kindly. They were always talented but an underachieving team. Bam started the game off with a kickoff return for a touchdown and it seemed we would have a nice easy game but North came to play and held us to one offensive touchdown the rest of the game. But they couldn’t muster up any offense because our defense was clicking and limited our mistakes. Needless to say, they were extremely happy to lose 14-0. I had never in my life seen a team that happy with a loss because of the score and the fact that we didn’t embarrass them.
I wouldn’t say there was a letdown from the previous week. I will say that North had a good defense and our offensive play calling was very conservative in that game. As far as North’s offense, they ran a veer, which is like the read option. IF the defensive end attacks the QB, the running back will keep the ball. If the defensive end attacks the running back, the QB will keep it. We as a defense had assignment play. I never immediately attacked either player, causing them to slow up the read on me, the Defensive end. While they were trying to figure out what I was going to do, my strong side linebacker Jerry Hooper was coming straight to D gap which is my outside shoulder. My assignment was always the running back against North and Hooper had the QB. The key here was for me not to attack too quickly making sure the QB didn’t get ahead of Hooper if he kept the ball. Once you start hitting running backs enough, they slow up, especially when taking a pounding without the ball.
David Wadford, Junior, Defensive End/Wing Back
I remember the North game mainly because I felt I had to step up on defense because my brother Gary Wadford got injured early in the game. It was one of my best defensive games of the year besides the State Championship game. I know I had 3 sacks and not sure of how many tackles but was named the Kernersville’s radio station at the time, WTOB player of the week again. I think I ended up with 4-5 of the WTOB player of the week plaques throughout the season but this was the one I was most proud of.
Coach Joe Bill Ellender
North Forsyth is very unpredictable on defense and this can be difficult at times to call offense plays that will keep them off-balance. North Forsyth was a good team that year but we did not play as well as we had the previous several weeks. Again we were playing at North where they traditionally play much better than on the road. The past East Forsyth teams have had great success against the Vikings of North Forsyth where the Eagles had won 11 out of 12 years. North Forsyth was a much better defensive team that particular year than offensive.
Talmadge “TK” Alexander
There was no let down this week. Their defense was very tough. I think there was lots of rain that week and RB’s sliped on a lot of wide open runs. Kawahsi Penn was their starting QB who went on to play at Western Carolina and we knocked him out of the game. We had about 8 sacks that game between myself, David Wadford, Rod Funderburk, Tony Sanders, Jerry Hooper, etc. Yes we wanted a shutout every week. A defensive player was named player of the week and we used to get Domino’s Pizza in the cafeteria for our reward but ALWAYS shared it with our teammates. The only weakness was ourselves not getting to where we were supposed to be on Defense then getting the 2nd string up to where we were. We found weaknesses in the teams we played and exploited them. We took a lot of chances and continued to make adjustments on the fly.
Week 8 – East Forsyth vs Carver
Week 8 saw a 52-7 beatdown of the Carver YellowJackets. There has been a rumor going around for years that they Carver Head Coach (Keith Wilkes) was so upset at the blowout and for years afterwards, anytime Carver played East Forsyth, Carver would attempt to run up the score on the Eagles. This rumor grew in the late 90s as the East Forsyth program hit a rut with the retirement of Coach Ellender, School Realignment and Carver’s dominate run through 3A in the late 90s-early 2000s.
Never knew anything about the scores or either team trying to run up the scores. I remember having to run to the buses after the Carver game in 1992 due to having rocks thrown at us…lol.
Talmadge “TK” Alexander
The game was a rivalry game for us. We knew all the players on that team and even talked junk during that week as myself and other players on our team lived very close to them. we also owed them from the previous years as they beat us 21-8 in the 1991 season (my junior year). It was intense as they were pushing coaches on our sideline, etc during the game. This year we were the aggressor and punched them in the mouth at the beginning of the game. We tried some other things after getting up 42-0 after halftime that didn’t work for the most part then changed it back. They didn’t score until late in the fourth quarter when all the starters were out of the game. We had a lot of sacks that game as well and tackles for loss. I never heard that he (Coach Wilkes) was upset because of losing so bad. He should be mad at his team as all starters came out of the game at about the 4 minute mark in the 3rd quarter. Matter of fact, I had 2 yards rushing that game and I never even play offense.
Marquis “Bam” Scales
When playing Carver we came into that game focused on having fun at what we do best. So once the game started and we received the kickoff, again I was able to return it for a touchdown. To this day, no one else has returned back to back opening kickoffs. After the game was over, people actually came up and said that they make sure that they get to the games early so that they didn’t miss anything with the way we were playing.
Coach Joe Bill Ellender
Carver had been our feeder school in the 70s and early 80s and was one of our boarder schools like Glenn High School. Both of those programs wanted to beat the Eagles because of the local ties with our players and community. The concept of running up the score never was an issue for us because if we play well that will never happen and if we don’t we must accept the outcome of a poor performance. Carver has always had great athletes and we know we must play well if we are to win.
Week 9 – East Forsyth vs Glenn
Another Rivalry game, this time with crosstown rival Glenn. East Forsyth won in a shutout 54-0. They may have been one of the best performances of the year for the offense and defense. East Forsyth is 9-0 heading into a showdown with Greensboro Page.
The defense didn’t really talk about shut outs. We focused on making sure a team couldn’t run on us. If the offense gained 2 yards we let each other know that was 2….too many and we gotta tighten up. This mentality is what resulted in those shutouts. We should have had more shutouts, but when you’re winning a game by a large deficit, you have to let the 2nd and 3rd string guys get some playing time and experience. Many times the 1st string defense was on the bench in the 3rd quarter and our 2nd and 3rd string defense was playing the opponent’s 1st string offense, except with teams like North Forsyth, Page and North Mecklenburg. Our defense took more pride in shutting down our offense in practice more so than any opponent we faced that year.
Talmadge “TK” Alexander
This was a rivalry game just like Carver was. The coaches put together another great game plan to stop them and we were relentless on defense. The offense functioned as normal…I think they amassed over 400 yards of total offense. I think they did. I don’t think they (Glenn) were intimidated by us, but just didn’t have the athletes and the togetherness that we had. I think we finally cracked the AP Top 10 at #10. Again the starters didn’t finish this game as well…getting the reserves lots of playing time.
Coach Joe Bill Ellender
Our mission was to win. We tried to not over-emphasize a game like Glenn, knowing that our main rivalry for years was next week, Greensboro Page. Every year we knew before the season started if we wanted to win the conference we had to beat the Pirates from Greensboro Page. Glenn was more of a rivalry for the community and our players from the Kernersville area and Carver was the same for our Winston-Salem players. Our focus to our players was to practice hard and get better each week and not let our emotions govern how well we perform.
A total beat down. We didn’t hold back at all. I do remember one thing very vividly. Travis Mabe of Glenn (transferred to East his senior year) ran back a kickoff and got walked down at the 1 yard line. Now the series before this, 2nd String was playing. To preserve the shutout, Coach called for 1st team defense to go back in. It was 1st and Goal from the 1 yard line. 4 plays later Glenn turned the ball over on downs around the Glenn 20 yard line. We backed them up 4 straight plays, it was a great way to keep the shutout intact.
Week 10 – East Forsyth vs Page
In the Conference and Season Finale, East Forsyth beat rival Page 28-0. Many of the players pointed at that game as one of the ones circled on the calendar at the start of the season. The Eagles were Metro 4A champs with a 10-0 undefeated record heading into the State playoffs.
Talmadge “TK” Alexander
This was another game that we put on the list as a must win. Page had a ton of prestige winning three state championships in a row back in the 80s. I was close to some of the players there as well as I use to go to Four Seasons Mall on the Weekends and see some of the players there. We beat them the year before in a close game (38-34) but lost bad my Sophomore Year to them 31-3. We had to beat them to undisputed champs of the Metro 4A conference. I would consider Page our 2nd biggest rival at the time. It was great to win the conference and prove the critics wrong. I want to say that they picked us to finish towards the bottom of the Metro-4A conference. We took that as a knock on us especially coming from being in the State Semi-finals the year before. We were #8 int he AP Top 10 by this time and was finally getting recognized. We were the only team in the West in the AP Top 10.
Not only did we beat Page, who was our biggest conference rival…but we beat them AT Page! A shutout at that, was icing on the already sweet cake. We were on top of the world but knew the playoffs were just around the corner and we would be looked at as fierce competition.
Coach Joe Bill Ellender
Greensboro Page had been our biggest rivalry for many years not just the 1992 season. They brought out the best in the Eagles and we would like to think that we brought out the best in the Pirates. Coach Marion Kirby had retired but there was not a drop off in the football program. In 1992 we shut out the Pirates which was a major accomplishment and something that had not been done in over 10 years. It was by far our best defensive performance of the year. The offense did not turn the ball over or give the Pirates a short field so our defense buckled down and played a great game. This was a great way to end a great regular season and get ready to prepare for the playoffs.
Were there any weird or strange superstitions from team members as the win streak stretched to 10 games? And were any players keeping up with Page or West Charlotte in the papers each week as they stormed through the Metro 4A…local or statewide?
Talmadge “TK” Alexander
Yes, the gloves that Scott Munsie and I traded at the beginning of the season and kept it going. We ate our pre-game meals at the same Methodist church in Kernersville every week. Some players didn’t wash their game socks the entire season. As for keeping up with other teams, we kept up with West Charlotte, Anson County, Greenville Rose, Wilmington New Hanover and Asheville outside of our region. It pissed us off that they didn’t want to play us in the preseason.
One weird thing I did was I always wore my Red Hawaiian shorts with the island plants printed on them. Everyone called them my Bahama Mama shorts. I would not play a game without those shorts. Not sure if it meant anything but that was my routine.
Also, prayer was a big factor for me. The first game of the season, I remember praying in the locker room off in the shower area by myself. The next game at West Forsyth, I was going to pray alone again and Leon Callahan came up to me and said “What you doing Burk? How you just gonna pray alone like that…you know I want to be in on praying too”. So just Leon and I prayed before that game. The next game a few more teammates joined us and more and more continued to grow our prayer group before games. By the time the playoffs came, the whole team had their heads down and eyes closed. I remember as I prayed, I never once asked God to allow or help us win a game. Instead, I always asked that everyone praying would stay safe and not fall to injury, including our opponents. I also asked that God would allow us to perform to our very best standards because we were such a close-knit team. I knew if we played well with the least amount of mistakes, no one would beat us. And needless to say God granted us this…..
Next Week: The East Forsyth Eagles start their trek through the State Playoffs with hopes of making it to Chapel Hill, where an unfamiliar, but potent team would give Eagles their biggest test of the entire 1992 season.
Miss a part? Read other parts of “Myth Becomes Legend – The 1992 East Forsyth State Champions” in the links below.
Desmond Johnson is the editor/owner of SportsCarolina Monthly. He is married with two children and lives in Kernersville, NC. To contact him, email at email@example.com